Bank profits reflect economic health

28 July 2006

Banks continued to report positive second-half earnings in late July, reflecting the buoyancy of regional economies and banks' resilience to the stock market downturn. 'The banking sector is a mirror of the economy,' says Standard Chartered Bank senior economist Monica Malik. 'The fundamentals remain strong and there are lending opportunities. Banks have been able to shrug off the bursting [stock market] bubble.'

Regional heavyweights National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) and Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC) both reported record profits for the period. NBK announced profits of KD 129.3 million ($447 million), a rise of 32 per cent, and GIC reported profits of KD 48.4 million ($167.2 million), up 8 per cent on the first half of 2005.

Most UAE banks continued the trend, led by Emirates Bank Group, which posted a 36 per cent increase in profits to AED 971 million ($264 million). Union National Bank profits totalled AED 627 million ($171 million), up 20 per cent, and profits rose 40 per cent at National Bank of Fujairah to AED 105 million ($28.6 million). An exception was National Bank of Dubai, which recorded a drop in profits of 21 per cent to AED 504 million ($137 million). The bank noted that profits of AED 637 million ($173 million) for the same period on 2005 included one-off revenue from investment sales of AED 79 million ($21.5 million) and a write-back of provision on investment of AED 23 million ($6.3 million).

Elsewhere, profits were also down at Saudi Hollandi Bank. The bank reported a 20 per cent drop in profits to SR 365 million ($97 million). The results contrast with those of other Saudi Arabian banks, which appear to have weathered the stock market volatility. 'In Saudi Arabia, banks have built up capital and central bank monitoring has helped mitigate the impact [of the stock market crash],' says Malik (MEED 14:7:06).

Bahrain's Ahli United Bank announced profits of BD 286 million ($108 million), up 37 per cent. Profits at United Gulf Bank increased 40 per cent to BD 120 million ($45.4 million) and Bahrain-based Bank Muscat International reported a 34 per cent increase in profits to BD 1.9 million ($5 million).

Oman's banking giant BankMuscat posted an increase in profits of 33 per cent to RO 28 million ($72.7 million), while National Bank of Oman announced a 97 per cent rise in profits to RO 13.1 million ($33.7 million).

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